Effingham Parish Council says it has support of local MP and 700 residents for challenge against ’irrational and illogical’ decision

A parish council in Surrey has kick-started legal proceedings against the approval of a major green belt housing scheme by Berkeley Homes.

In November a planning inspector ruled that Berkeley’s 114-home scheme in the village of Effingham just outside Guildford had demonstrated the “very special circumstances” necessary to justify housing development in the Green Belt, because the scheme was essential in order to pay for the infrastructure required to allow a previous permission to go ahead.

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However, councillor Paula Moss of Effingham Parish Council told Housing Today she has begun the process of applying for judicial review of the scheme, with a pre-action letter written to Berkeley and notification given to the Planning Inspectorate’s law team before Christmas.

Moss said the Parish Council had appointed legal advisors for the challenge, and had not yet had a formal response to the challenge, beyond an acknowledgement. She said local MP Paul Beresford backed the opposition to the scheme, with 700 objections received from local residents to the project, and that “residents are up in arms at this irrational and illogical decision.”

The North Lodge Farm site sits alongside another site for 268 homes and a new secondary school – to be paid for by Berkeley – which was permitted by Sajid Javid on appeal in March 2018. Berkeley had argued in the appeal that because of build cost increases the school could not now be paid for simply by building out the original permission – and that the additional site was required on top to generate enough cash.

The inspector said that the North Lodge Farm plan demonstrated the required “very special circumstances” for a green belt approval because it was needed to build out the original permission, which delivered significant benefits.

However, Moss said the Parish Council intends to argue that Berkeley’s case at appeal misstated the likely costs of the new school, and that because the new permission involved amending the use of land covered by the earlier permission, this should have meant that the original permission itself was altered, and therefore re-presented for determination.

At the time of the inspector’s decision, barrister Chris Young KC of No.5 Chambers, who acted for Berkeley in the case, said the decision provided a potential model by which permissions in high value Green Belt land could be used to pay for expensive infrastructure in parts of the South east.

Berkeley Homes declined to comment.